A Short story: The wolf foreshadowed in divination

“Mr. Shanyue, in the nine dice I tossed, a wolf is foreshadowed”, happily cried the fortuneteller. “It’s not a usual wolf but a white wolf”, he said bringing his dice near to his eyes. “Yes, it’s most fortunate a divination”, said Tumen Shanyue, and he smiled with satisfaction. Then he signaled to the fortuneteller to go out, and, grinning, began to reflect on something. He felt satisfied with the possibility of fulfilling the request that his young wife made as she suffered during childbirth. Her lips trembled and her eyes brimmed with tears as she begged “I’m dying, I may die, but if I give birth to a son, please make him the heir of your throne.” He gave his word, “I promise. But don’t die! Without you I will wither away alive.”
The queen gave birth to a son but for several years he was distraught as to what to do with his elder son born of his deceased wife. Later, when a demand was made by the vengeful Yuechji tribe to give one of his sons as hostage, he decided to send his elder son. For that reason, he had asked the fortuneteller to toss the nine dice to see what consequences such a measure could have for his tribe, his family and descendents.
Tumen Shanyue called his elder son Maodunna to him and, placing him by his side, cautiously said, “You know well that king Yuechji repeatedly demands me to give my son as hostage. We are dependent on them in our everyday life. So, there is no other way than to give one of you as hostage. Your younger brother still is too carefree and is a child. But you have reached maturity and are able to understand the real meanings of life. So, for the sake of your native land, your relatives and beloved people you have to leave for a foreign country. You are my child and as dear to me as my own life. In the foreign country you will find out what is worthy of learning and what to despise”. Then he kissed him on his forehead. The boy with his keen intuition and premonition felt a rush of blood through his whole body and was overwhelmed by grief.
Maodunna looked around to observe the people who came to see him off, but he couldn’t see anybody who expressed sympathy for him. When he saw a satisfied look and mischievous smirk hidden in the corner of the mouth of his stepmother, who stood stroking the head of his ten year old brother, he remembered his mother who worried about the future of her son when she died several years ago. “If my mother were alive….” he whispered in despair to himself, as he gulped down the bitter tear that knotted in his throat. He mounted his horse and galloped away towards the strange country without looking back.
The queen and her son entered returned home, she caressed his cheek and heaved a sigh, and said happily, “My dear son. You’ll inherit the throne of your father”.
Several months later, Tumen Shanyue attacked the Yuechji tribe. The Yuechji king warned him several times that he would kill his hostage son by cutting him in pieces, but he ignored it. He occupied half of his territory and killed many of its citizens. One pitch dark night when it was pouring down with heavy rain and Shanyue was peacefully sleeping with his young queen, a rider galloped up and startled Shanyue awake. His large and strong two year old dogs not only didn’t attack but didn’t even bark at him, which meant that the rider belonged to the family. The man opened the door and entered his home. He grasped a cup and scooped up some airag (fermented mares milk) from the leather sack hanging on the eastern corner of the ger, and began to gulp it down. Shanyue grabbed his sword from the wall and cried:
“Who’s it”? The startled man dropped the cup and uttered:
“They wanted to kill me by cutting me in pieces. I escaped from them and ran away. My father, it’s up to you what you do with me”, and he fell down on his knees before him. Shanyue recognized the son he had sacrificed. He looked at the water running down the face of his son, his clothes were wet through and he trembled, rattling his teeth.
“You ran away? Is it true?”, he asked roughly.
“Why should I lie?” He answered indignantly. Shanyue replied coldly:
‘If its true, go back and bring the head of Yuechji king! Take this! He threw his sword at him”. The confused face of his son changed to scorn as he fiercely stared at his father. The father, though afraid of his stare, pretended to be untroubled and gave him his pouch. The queen, awake but drowsy, recognized the arrival of Maodunna and become terrified, getting cold shivers down her back as she hid herself in the chest of Shanyue. The boy bit his lips until they bled, squeezed the sword into his hand and ran out.
Tumen Shanyue was celebrating his victory over his worst enemy and distributing the gains among his worriers. He was enjoying wine filled in a cup made of the skull of the Yuechji king. He was drunk and boasted:
“It’s Yuenchji king’s own fault! While I had given him my son as hostage he missed his chance, and now let us make a cup of his skull. Many khanates must know that through the veins of Tumen Shanyue runs not blood but fire, and they must pray to my face and kneel down before my shadow”.
Then he embraced his elder son by his shoulders saying.
“My son, in acknowledgement of your courage and wisdom, I make you commander of ten thousand units! You’ll be the sharp edge of my sword and the spear-head of my darting arrow! Blood revenge is pursued by arrows”. Then he became a little pensive and lowering his voice:
“My son, I hope you have no grudge against your father. A sword at first is heated in fire and then is hardened by putting it into water”.
Then smiling happily, he added, “You are the wolf foreshadowed in my divination. Come on! Look at me! He stared at his son at length, his eyes dimmed by intoxication, and cried:
“You see, his eyes are just like of wolf. Exactly!” and laughed.
Maodunna, realizing the meaning of his words, looked at his father and smiled.
From that day Maodunna, though not close to his father, served him honestly. As if preparing for a far off war he trained his soldiers, taught them how to shoot with whistling arrows and applauded his soldiers which evoked everybody’s admiration. The taught them to follow his lead without question. One day he ordered his soldiers to shoot at their beloved horses, and he shot his whistling arrow at his horse. Some of the soldiers shot but other did not. He beheaded those who didn’t shoot. Then he shot at his wife, some of his soldiers followed him but others not; again, he beheaded those who didn’t shoot. He later shot the best horse of his father Shanyue. This time, all his soldiers shot their whistling arrows. Though Shanyue knew all these activities of his son, he ignored them. He is his native son and even after his treacherous act to give him as hostage, he came back. Therefore he forgave his return from hostage and made him commander of ten thousand units. He thought without doubt that he came back because he was loyal to his father. If he had been vengeful he could have taken his father’s head to the Yuechji king. Never mind! Either one of his two sons will inherit their father’s throne. The state I have established by great suffering and hardship, must be headed by a real leader. He refused to listen to the incessant requests of his queen.
One autumn day, Tumen Shanyue decided to take his elder son hunting to a place of beautiful pristine nature of bushy trees with yellow leaves, to see his bodily strength and prowess with his own eyes. Shanyue, riding his vigorously trotting horse, looked at the thick suntanned neck and broad shoulders of his son and admired his muscle-bound hands. For him, riding alongside his son amongst robust young men and talking to them as equals about forgotten or hidden details of their history, ancestors and heritage seemed to him the happiest day.
Then suddenly, from a depression in the mount on their left, sprung a he-wolf which ran off. The men cheered and gave chase, the horses excited by the deafening hurrah, raced after the wolf. The white wolf was scared of the chasing horses and darted through the green steppe at its highest speed. The son shot his whistling arrow and the other men, including Shanyue, shot too.
They spent the day full of enjoyment and started to return before darkness. On the way back Tumen Shanyue dismounted his horse and began to drink water from a cold spring. Suddenly, from behind him he heard a trembling voice, full of grievance.
“Father!” Alarmed, Tumen slowly turned back and looked at his son with fearful eyes.
“I’m the wolf foreshadowed in your divination!”, and he shot his arrow. Alongside his arrow, many other arrows whistled and plunged into the chest of Shanyue. Shanyue fell down on his back looking towards the sky. In his eyes the cirrus clouds looked like the waving arms and legs of the new born Maodunna, his umbilical cord tightly tied up with wolf sinew.
His words, “I’m the wolf foreshadowed in your divination” repeatedly echoed and faded away.

Translated by G. Dashdavaa



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